Podcast Alert: Catie Griggs – Seattle Mariners
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Catie Griggs – President of Business Operations for the Seattle Mariners – joins the show for an insightful conversation about increasing the popularity of baseball among young fans. She and AJ discuss her time at Atlanta United, the exciting Mariners stars including Julio Rodriguez, and what the MLB All-Star game will mean for the city of Seattle in 2023.
Catie also shares how she went to T-Mobile Park incognito to observe the fan experience when she first joined the organization. AJ points out that Adrian Hanauer, Majority Owner of the Seattle Sounders, takes the same approach to undercover data-gathering, so it’s a proven strategy in the Seattle sports market.
1:40 – Catie’s Time at Atlanta United
3:35 – Going undercover at Mariners games
12:10 – The next generation of Baseball fans
14:10 – Catie’s background
17:55 – MLB All-Star Game coming to Seattle
23:15 – Future of the Mariners
27:35 – Rapid Fire Questions
[00:00:00] Catie Griggs: We recognize, baseball more than a lot of other sports, the players’ personalities haven’t necessarily been allowed to shine through. And so from a content creation of storytelling, the way in which we engage with our athletes, they’re all different. Just like all of us are different and we’ve been very intentional about finding ways in which we can actually connect them to our fans in an authentic manner, by highlighting the emotion, highlighting the personalities, highlighting the quirkiness, but doing so in a way where it’s real. And you can tell that it’s real.
[00:00:41] AJ Maestas: Hello and welcome to the Navigating Sports Business Podcast. I’m your host, AJ Maestas, Founder of Navigate, a data-driven consulting firm, guiding major strategies and decisions in sports and entertainment. We started this podcast, hoping to share the interesting stories and experiences of the amazing people we get to work with at Navigate.
And even [00:01:00] though they’re visionaries and famous in many instances, their true stories, aren’t often heard since they’re not on the playing field. Our hope is you get to know them better and learn from them. As we have.
Today, I’m happy to be joined by Catie Griggs, the president of business operations to the Seattle Mariners. Hello, Catie. Thank you for joining us.
[00:01:23] Catie Griggs: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
[00:01:25] AJ Maestas: It’s a real pleasure to actually be connecting this way. because I think our past originally crossed with AMBSE for those who don’t know that’s the Atlanta Falcons and where you launched one of the most successful MLS franchises in history.
But we’ve never gotten to actually catch up one on one like this?
[00:01:43] Catie Griggs: No, I was really excited to have the opportunity.
[00:01:44] AJ Maestas: Yeah, me too. Before we get into the Mariners and I’m sure I have a million Mariners fan friends just because I went to college in Seattle and it was the first Major League Baseball game I went to and all that kind of good stuff.
But, before I do, I would love to just mention Atlanta United real quick. I would [00:02:00] love to know exactly how that all happened, because for those who don’t know, Atlanta United played in their first game in 2017, won the championship in 2018. There’s 70,000 plus people in the stands, every game, you know, most people listening this who are Mariners fans will, you know, recognize the Sounders as the original success story in MLS.
But there haven’t been too many that has gone as well as your launch. How did you do that?
[00:02:22] Catie Griggs: I’d be happy to. So I actually joined a few games into the inaugural season, so I will not take credit for the absolutely incredible work that was done by the team coming out at the gate to get ready for that. I joined right before we moved into Mercedes-Benz Stadium and was with them until I left to join here last summer.
So with that being said, I think really what it came down to is a myopic focus on the fans. And a, an insistence on creating a quality product, both on the pitch as well as in our incredible stadium Mercedes-Benz Stadium. So had the opportunity to be a part of that was averaging, I think right before the pandemic hit, we were averaging 53,000 fans a [00:03:00] match.
It was an absolute rocket ship. And ultimately it came down to having a fantastic owner, a fantastic team, an organization around me and amazing fans.
[00:03:08] AJ Maestas: Yeah, they are a really impressive organization. There’s no question about that, but I appreciate you saying that myopic obsession, I believe you might have said there, right on who the fans were.
Yeah. As I understand it, when you came to Seattle, you sat in different spots around the ballpark. You took in game day experience sort of learning about the fan base. Obviously you have complete anonymity at that point. Right. So, and I love that sort of passive observation. I think, you know, Navigate does a bunch of quant and qual research.
I mean, that’s like right out of our playbook and you might find this really interesting. Have you connected yet with the Sounders?
[00:03:38] Catie Griggs: I have. So I knew a lot of the members of the Sounders organization from my time at Atlanta United. And you mentioned them early on for Major League Soccer. I mean, they are an incredible organization.
That really was one of the teams we looked to as an example of where we hoped to be and what we hoped to accomplish in Atlanta. So when I had the opportunity to move out here with the Mariners, that certainly was a group I [00:04:00] reached out to.
[00:04:01] AJ Maestas: So smart, because when I learned about how you sort of did your own sort of secret shopper experience to get to know Mariners fans and the experience better, I’m so thankful Adrian Hanauer, the owner of the Sounders has become a friend over the years.
We’ve working with those folks about a decade, you know, he does that. And it’s one of those little known facts. I’m not sure if anybody even really actually knows that. He will attend a game in a situation where he just walks up and has to find a ticket. So head to the ticket booth or a scalper or whatever it might be.
Just to see what it’s like for an average fan to, you know, be a part of that. And I’m thinking, I don’t know of another owner that that has ever, or could even get away with right. Entering a game that way. So that was so cool right there in Seattle. The two of you, you know, doing some solid qual research.
But tell me about that, by the way, any fun stories or anything that jumped out at you about the Mariners experience?
[00:04:47] Catie Griggs: You know, it was a lot of fun to your point. I had the opportunity to join late last August. So August of 2021, which meant there were roughly 20 home regular season games left when I got here. We have a fantastic organization here at the [00:05:00] Seattle Mariners, which meant that as a new person, I was freed up to go. And to your point spent a lot of time during those 20 home games, serving our fans, getting to know our ballpark, getting to know what I refer to as the different neighborhoods, because there are so many different experiences you can have at T-Mobile park.
You know, we’re, we’re renowned for our beer program, renowned for the variety of food that we have, but there really are places inside T-Mobile park for everyone. From a fun experience, I think there were a lot of, a lot of amusing ones. I was sitting in the left field bleachers at one point and the woman who was singing the national anthem that day, clearly her friends were sitting right in front of me.
And this became very apparent when someone else walked out on field, after she finished singing and dropped to one knee and proposed and her friends were going, absolutely. So it’s kinda cool to get to be a fly on the wall and observe that moment through them. But really it was about getting to understand Seattle as a market and seeing all the different ways that a wide variety of fans engage with each other, engage with their ballpark.
And particularly as we went on a really fun [00:06:00] run and fell just short of a postseason slot at the very end of last season. Really observing the energy, the excitement and the way in which the entire community wrapped its arms around this team. You know, coming from Atlanta, coming out of COVID, it was something that was really exciting to me and really made it, reaffirmed my belief that not only is Seattle a great baseball city. You know, it is going to be a great baseball city going forward. So this season has been a lot of fun. Again, to build on the excitement of the energy coming out of 2021. Watch the team embrace a young, diverse, charismatic squad. And hopefully we’ll get over that hump this year.
[00:06:37] AJ Maestas: Wow. Yeah, you’re picking up on a lot there. I’m sure you can feel the excitement, right? Because you know, it’s been, I mean, you can call Mariners fans long-suffering at this point. It’s been 20 years, right? Since they were seriously thinking about the playoffs and I’m sure you heard some frustration, I was kind of hoping you’d give us one of those angry fans stories.
[00:06:55] Catie Griggs: No, look, I mean, there is frustration. Our fans want to win and [00:07:00] we wanna win too. And I think the reality is, we’ve been in a rebuild for the last couple of years, Jerry and our ownership group have been very public about that. But I think particularly as you go into this season, Cal Raleigh performing at the level he’s performing, you saw what Julio did on the national scale with the Home Run derby.
And he’s just been an absolutely incredible rookie for us. This season, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, when the investment we’re making with players like Louis Castillo, like this is our moment. We wanna win too. And that is the expectation that we have of ourselves going forward. So it’s fair that our fans have been frustrated.
We’ve been frustrated too.
[00:07:34] AJ Maestas: What will you do to capitalize on that? There’s like this surprise young superstar, all that energy. Yeah. I mean, I’m sure you know, this, we have all this Gen Z and even Gen Alpha research on the younger, you go in generations and this is true for Millennials and Gen X, the closer and closer they got to the athlete versus the team.
Right. And not being anchored to their geography in their hometown. Is there anything you plan to do or anything you can share about taking advantage of such a young, bright star? Kind of [00:08:00] outta nowhere.
[00:08:00] Catie Griggs: Yeah, no, I mean, Julio’s maybe new to a lot of the country, but you know, he’s been someone who’s been a part of our system since he was a teenager.
So we’ve had the opportunity to see him for a number of years and had been waiting for the moment when he’d be ready to step on for Major League stage. So you never know that we were really excited when Julio got called up this year and had high aspirations and hopes for him. With that being said, beyond Julio, we have a lot of really fun, exciting, charismatic young players. And part of what we were doing to take advantage of that is, we recognize baseball more than a lot of other sports, the players’ personalities haven’t necessarily been allowed to shine through. And so from a content creation, of storytelling, the way in which we engage with our athletes, they’re all different, just like all of us are different.
And we’ve been very intentional about finding ways in which we can actually connect them to our fans in an authentic manner. By highlighting the emotion, highlighting the personalities, highlighting the quirkiness, [00:09:00] but doing so in a way where it’s real. And you can tell that it’s real, they’re not scripted.
They’re not told what to say. We’re just really looking to showcase them in the best light, help our fans get to know them and love them.
[00:09:09] AJ Maestas: Well, I’m glad to hear you say that. If you look at athlete exposure and MLB, it’s just really disturbing, right? They’re not wearing helmets, right? You can see them. The Mariners did a wonderful job of this 20 years ago.
You know, over the years, I remember these campaigns where you really did get to know the personality of the players and they made them really feel like a part of the community. There is no question that Seattle is provincial, right? They felt that the Mariners were a part of their community. And it just seems like this is a new, an exciting opportunity to do that.
There’s some numbers around baseball, just for our friends who just care about baseball overall, who are listening, you know, top, top stars, like a Mike Trout and folks like that. They’ll have, you know, they’ll have less endorsements than just, you know, an average NBA player, who’s, you know, number one or number two in their market.
I mean, it’s the craziest thing, and I know they’re stretched for time, but there’s just so much exposure, so much content, right. So much time that they’re visible to fans, that it’s a little bit of a mystery [00:10:00] to me. I know there’s policies, right. That limit what you can do with social, digital, mobile, and all that kind of stuff.
But I really do hope you blow it out with him. It seems like a special moment, right? Like if you’re gonna, you know, be carried to greatness, he’s gonna be a part of that or it feels that way. So anyway, feel free to tease some future plans, but that’s my hope.
[00:10:18] Catie Griggs: I share that hope with you. And I think the interesting thing about an athlete like Julio is he’s 21.
He’s very, very young. He’s a digital native. He’s very comfortable and the reality is, everyone’s wired differently. Some people are much more comfortable in front of the camera. Some people are much more comfortable on social media. Some aren’t. We’re fortunate with Julio and many of our other athletes that they are.
They’re very comfortable. They lean in on their own platforms. They collaborate with us. It is a lot of fun, but I think one of the things you mentioned earlier with regards to Gen Z, a Gen Alpha in particular, is as you get to digital natives, they know what’s real. They know what’s choreographed, right? They’ve been living in the Instagram generation of everything being portrayed a certain way and they know what’s [00:11:00] real and what’s not, and they wanna see the unvarnished, they wanna see what’s true.
And I think the fun thing that we have at the fun opportunity we have is to really showcase the authentic players and who they are in a way where it breaches and meets and exceeds that criteria for those demographics. This is really them. This is true. This is authentic. This is not manufactured. Hey, we’re going to paint this person with fairy dust to try to make you like him.
You’re gonna like him, or you’re not going like him, but you’re going to know him. Right. And we’ve got a lot of really likable characters down in our clubhouse. Got a lot of guys, different characteristics are gonna resonate with different people, but it’s been a lot of fun working with the guys to showcase who they are.
In a way that we really can reflect the needs and wants those younger demos so they can get to know them.
[00:11:47] AJ Maestas: I appreciate you mentioning that, you know, we have done work with the league office on big picture strategy stuff over the last few years. And there are some sort of disturbing trends about baseball and aging.
You know, the, the sort of joke that baseball gets one year [00:12:00] older each year. As the fan base ages by a year, isn’t completely wrong. I know I’m gonna upset some of our friends at the league office by saying this stuff, but it is true. There’s like this missing generation that’s not completely, but measurably like 15 percentage points there’s this gap.
And then there’s these other trends as far as fans sort of falling off. If you picture a lifetime customer sort of experience curve, right? As at your fandom starts at this very young age, compared to what most people think 5, 6, 7 years old, you know, peaks in your twenties and goes on this slow, but long decline.
There’s this jump off that’s happening for baseball, right? People are abandoning it for the global game of football, for American football. So anyway, I do think there is, and I wish I had the answer. I guess I’d be super wealthy if I had the answer. But there is something happening there with the next generation of fans that goes beyond participation.
That there’s some level of connectivity to those athletes. Right. And younger folks. So I hope this is your moment. Because Seattle is young, it’s edgy. It’s tech forward, right? It’s progressive. So it seems like the right [00:13:00] kind of market that you could change that story.
[00:13:02] Catie Griggs: We sincerely hope so. I mean, that is our goal.
That is our expectation. We wanna be a club that’s here for everyone. And everyone includes people of all ages, people of all demographic backgrounds races, genders, et cetera. So this is something where it is a very front and center focus for us as an organization. We’re seeing some really good data on it already in terms of levels of engagement.
Who’s actually sort of affinity awareness, all of that good stuff. So we’re slowly but surely seeming to move the needle at our own market, but are excited about opportunities to even amplify that going forward.
[00:13:37] AJ Maestas: Well, I’m glad to hear that. And if you have any super cool best practices on what you’re doing with that next generation, you just insert it into this conversation, please.
But speaking about young people, I hope it’s not too personal to get into this, but you started college at NC State at age 14. Is this true?
[00:13:52] Catie Griggs: That is true.
[00:13:53] AJ Maestas: Yeah. And transferred to Dartmouth at 17. Oh, by the way, you’re also, the only woman [00:14:00] in baseball, sitting in your seat. So you’re peerless or a groundbreaker in a few different ways here, any parallel there or anything you can share with me about that?
[00:14:08] Catie Griggs: I don’t know that there’s a parallel. What I will tell you is that I think I’m wired to be aware of risks, to be aware of opportunities. And I’ve generally been comfortable putting myself in uncomfortable positions where I knew that I was going to be different or I knew I didn’t know everything.
I certainly don’t know everything in this role. Right. But it’s something where being comfortable, taking those chances and trusting in my ability to figure it out, trusting myself in my ability to surround myself with other really incredible people that can create a team that can move those forward.
And so whether it was stepping into a classroom where I was pretty good at keeping other people from knowing how old I was, but I certainly was aware of it, or stepping into a role where there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me. I think this first step is being willing to step into those positions, right?
Because if you don’t try, if you [00:15:00] don’t put yourself in that room, if you don’t put yourself in that environment, you can’t move forward.
[00:15:05] AJ Maestas: There’s no path to follow, certainly. No question about that. And you played hockey by the way, I can’t resist just calling out one more fun, yes, I mean, you’re awfully young then to be playing hockey in college like that, but does that mean you’ve connected with the Kraken folks too?
[00:15:17] Catie Griggs: Well, no. I have connected with the Kraken folks. Todd and his team are absolutely fantastic. We were watching them back when I was still with Atlanta and they were doing their brand launch. They’ve done an absolutely incredible job, but my hockey career was very much the club level and I was very much a mediocre athlete on that front.
So I do not need to oversell. I don’t think the Kraken are gonna be knocking on my door to sign me any anytime soon.
[00:15:39] AJ Maestas: Ah, you’re young enough. You’re young enough.
[00:15:41] Catie Griggs: You’re very kind.
[00:15:42] AJ Maestas: You’ve still got some years left in you on those knees. And by the way, just for folks who are listening, who might have more interest in Seattle than our average listener, we do have an interview with Todd Leiweke and a separate one with Tim Leiweke out in our library.
They are a pretty incredible pair. It’s kind of amazing to think they came from the same large family and [00:16:00] they have some pretty incredible personal stories themselves. They both, they lost two moms. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s just not an easy thing as kids, you know, growing up, that’s pretty brutal.
Okay. Well, I hope you get out to a Kraken game because I’m impressed. It’s unbelievable. The atmosphere of what they got going on. I was not a fan of the choice of the mascot, you know, brand. I don’t know what I was missing, because I was very clearly wrong. But we were working with the XFL. We worked with the launch of the team and when they were coming to Seattle and with the league office and choosing Seattle, but we also were working with the XFL at the time or 2.0 XFL.
And they had rights to some of the names that, you know, they were considering, they kind of beat ’em to the punch with registering names. And I was clearly in the wrong, on the success of the Kraken as a name and a brand. So I’m glad you saw it. One little side note of mutual friends. I can’t resist by the way.
I see that you’re on the board of ROOT SPORTS I assume you’re hanging out with my good friend, Patrick.
[00:16:52] Catie Griggs: I am indeed. Totally coincidentally, I found out after the fact that I ended up actually buying his brother-in-law’s house when we moved out here. So Patrick [00:17:00] and I have many degrees of connection.
[00:17:02] AJ Maestas: Yeah. He’s a pretty cool guy. I’m grateful you’re connected like that already in the city. Where you living by the way?
[00:17:07] Catie Griggs: We’re up in Laurelhurst. We’re near UW.
[00:17:09] AJ Maestas: Oh, what a beautiful place. I’m a Husky by the way, but that’s not why I think Laurelhurst is amazing. It’s just gorgeous, right. To be by the lake and near the city.
But you could feel like you’re in a deep suburb, right. In a lot of ways.
[00:17:20] Catie Griggs: We’re excited about it.
[00:17:21] AJ Maestas: Good for you. Good for you. All right. MLB All-Star Game is coming to T-Mobile Park, by the way, T-Mobile’s a client of ours. So we’re very proud of that. And that has us in Seattle from time to time. But so All-Star Game’s coming to T-Mobile park next year.
What’s going on. Anything exciting we can expect or plan for?
[00:17:38] Catie Griggs: Low key little week in July. No, it’s gonna be an absolutely incredible week. We’re working closely with major league baseball to bring this one to life. So now that they had an incredible event down in L.A. we’re very much in the weeds of bringing this one to life.
I think we’re still working out on a lot of the details with that being said, it is going to be authentic to the Pacific Northwest and that’s something we’re very [00:18:00] focused on. It’s something that Major League Baseball is really focused on. So really it’s an opportunity for us to showcase our ballpark, showcase our city, showcase our broader region.
One of the things that’s somewhat unique and most people don’t know about the Seattle Mariners is we have the largest American footprint in major league sports. So our territory includes Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and shared territory in Hawaii. So it’s not just representing Seattle Metro.
We really have the privilege in showcasing a much broader region, and we’re excited to bring that full region to life next summer.
[00:18:33] AJ Maestas: Well, I’m excited to hear that too. You know, I always end up, my wife’s from Tacoma, so I always end up there over the holidays and it’s dark, gloomy, rainy, and it’s just, ugh.
So what a time of year to showcase Seattle when it’s just absolutely at its best.
[00:18:47] Catie Griggs: July is stunning, July in Seattle. There are very few places that I’d rather be.
[00:18:52] AJ Maestas: Good. Yeah. It’s considered the best beer garden in town as well. I’m sure you’ve noticed that at games too. People have to be coming back to the ballpark in droves, [00:19:00] I assume, right? Is there anything you can share with us as far as the uptick in attendance?
[00:19:03] Catie Griggs: I mean, we’re having a great season, so it’s, it’s been fun. As I mentioned, last season was still pretty tough. We were operating with restricted attendance into July of last year coming out of the COVID pandemic.
And you know, at the end of the season we had some real high water marks particularly during that last home stand. But the reality is people were still trying to figure out where they’re going, what they feel comfortable engaging with, how they feel comfortable engaging with other fans. And I think this season was, has been more of a fresh start for us.
So it’s a little bit hard looking year over year. We are way up year over year. Would that be said, I don’t know that that’s the benchmark against which we wanna hold ourselves going forward, but it’s been a lot of fun welcoming the tens of thousands of fans to the ballpark. And we’ve got a three game 40,000 plus weekend series this weekend where it’s celebrating Ichiro’s hall of fame.
So we’re, we’re really excited about where we’re at, the city of Seattle and the broader Pacific Northwest region has shown up, has supported this team and our players are noticing.
[00:19:59] AJ Maestas: I [00:20:00] see Ichiro behind you. That was the last time I could call myself a legitimate fan. Oh, I probably shouldn’t say that out loud, because so many of your coworkers I’ve told them I’m a fan, but it’s, it’s an exaggeration because I don’t watch any games or go to any games, but yeah, I was living in New York when that sad, 114, 116, whatever win season that happened 20 years ago.
[00:20:19] Catie Griggs: 116.
[00:20:21] AJ Maestas: Yeah, they got eliminated by New York, but man, was he special?
I see the Trident helmet behind you too, by the way, I appreciate you getting geared up, even if you’re somewhat new to the city.
[00:20:31] Catie Griggs: You know, the Seattle Mariners have done an incredible job building a brand. And to your point with whether Ichiro, whether it’s Griffey, whether it’s Randy Johnson, whether it’s Edgar Martinez or Dan Wilson. We’ve got some incredible athletes who have played for this team, and we have a lot more who are playing for this team currently. So with any luck, we’ll be able to get you and a bunch of other folks back into the fold over the next couple years.
[00:20:53] AJ Maestas: Oh, yeah, I live in Scottsdale now. So I’m not a very good target as a customer, but I think people are eager and willing to, I think they’re [00:21:00] just, you know, there’s a level of apathy and there’s been a lot of success in Seattle. Right. You know, a lot of franchises have had these great launches or experiences that I think the Mariners will have no problem bringing people back to the ballpark.
It’s just, you know, anybody goes on a 20-year drought and you’re gonna suffer a little bit.
[00:21:16] Catie Griggs: We need to win. We are well aware of that. We need to win. And to your point, you know, Seattle is a market where you know what the Kraken have done, not only with the brand launch but in really bringing Climate Pledge Arena to life and completely reshaping what that venue looks like.
They’ve done an incredible job and we’re investing roughly a hundred million dollars right now on capital projects in and around the ballpark. Recognizing that we have an amazing ballpark here. We’re in an amazing city, in an amazing region. There’s certain places where we can, should and will get better.
So we’re making those investments on the field as well as on.
[00:21:51] AJ Maestas: They did do an amazing job with that arena. I know I already mentioned that podcast, but I can’t resist mentioning it a second time. To hear the story of, what they [00:22:00] did to make that zero carbon footprint. I mean, it’s just, it’s crazy what they did to preserve the building, because it was, you know, it was on the national registry, right as historic landmark and there’s all these, honestly, I was wrong there as well.
In my mind, I thought this is going to be a disaster. This is gonna be double or triple the plan budget and the traffic, you know, getting over to Seattle center and everything. Whereas the ballpark, you know, as you know, but some listeners might not know is in the arena district, right. Major transit comes in and out of there.
So despite all the horrific traffic problems in Seattle, getting to a Mariners game is reasonably easy. The intersection of a number of highways, and what have you. They’ll come back. They’ll come back quick. Well, if you don’t mind me begging for just a little bit of something we’re gonna see in the future, what can we expect?
Is there, do we have any facelift renovation plans for the ballpark or what can we expect to see? What could you tease us with for the future of the game day experience that we might not already know about?
[00:22:52] Catie Griggs: Of course. So, I mean, we just very recently opened a bar, restaurant, and beer garden across the street.[00:23:00]
Again, we recognize that particularly in a city like Seattle, we need people to feel comfortable coming back down here. We need to give people things to do. We are investing in that. We’re opening a large-scale of event space next spring as well, which we’ll be excited to showcase, both for during All-Star, as well, as much more beyond that. We are going to be giving our preeminent club right behind home late a face lift, and really revitalize that space during the offseason.
So that’ll be basically brand new effective in the start of next season. We’re additionally going to be converting where our press box has been. We’ve given our press another space right next door and are turning that into yet another club space behind home plate. With that being said, we’re also making major investments in the concourses from a layout, from a design, from a concessionaire standpoint, from a pricing standpoint to ensure that it’s not just about the top end of the market. We’re making sure that T-Mobile Park is a place that is accessible and affordable to everyone inside our [00:24:00] market. So a lot more work to come on that front, but we’re really excited about the work that’s being done again, inside the ballpark, but also around the ballpark and through our community efforts.
[00:24:10] AJ Maestas: The beer garden brewery. There was always that brewery immediately to the west. Is that what you’re referring to?
[00:24:15] Catie Griggs: Yeah. So Pyramid Brewery shut down a few years ago. So we, we spent the last year revitalizing that space. So we had the opportunity to recently open Hatback Bar and Grill, and Steelheads, Alley. Steelheads being a throwback to the 1940 Negro league team here in Seattle. As well, the brewery is being operated by Métier Brewing Company, which is the first black on brewery here in the Pacific Northwest. So it’s exciting for us, not only to have what they are because they’re delicious. It’s wonderful. It’s a great environment, but also what they stand for. It’s been a lot of fun to see that beer garden back full with people now that, that one’s back open as they’re enjoying August in Seattle.
[00:24:54] AJ Maestas: It’s very cool. It’s as close as tail getting gets in baseball, maybe the Brewers have quite a thing going on with [00:25:00] brats and beer in their parking lot, but I always did appreciate that, right. On the way in and out of the game. You mentioned affordable food and accessibility. You know, the Mariners have always had incredible seafood.
And for those who have not had the chance to experience T-Mobile park. The cuisine reflects the very diverse and international nature of Seattle, but I’m glad to hear you talk about approachable prices, maybe taking a cue from your old friends there at AMBSE.
[00:25:22] Catie Griggs: No doubt. I mean, this was something that Arthur blank was very focused on as we were opening Mercedes-Benz stadium.
Stadiums are not historically known for being terribly affordable once you’re inside. And so it’s all well and good to talk about ensuring that your ticket pricing allows a range of fans to attend, but if you come inside and everything is very expensive, that’s a limitation in and of itself. And so, you know, I very much appreciated and bought into what we were doing in Atlanta.
And so, had the opportunity, as Coca-Cola came on as a partner during this offseason, had an opportunity to work with them on moving all of our soda fountains to refillable fan facing [00:26:00] soda fountains, and then creating a value menu and partnership with our concessionaire, Sodexo Live! Where for $3, you can get a hot dog, you can get popcorn, peanuts, nachos, a refillable soda, water, Red Vines, so again, something where. You know, on our value nights, you get a ticket for 10 bucks and get a soda for three, hot dog for three, peanuts for three. And for 19 bucks, you’re here, you’re entertained, you’re fed. And so it is something where we’re ensuring that we really are placing all of our fans at the front and center, not just those at the upper end of the economic spectrum.
[00:26:34] AJ Maestas: Very cool. Wow. Okay. I like that. Thank you. I appreciate that. By the way, you, you made a reference to getting fans back downtown. Again, I can’t resist saying this, but my little brother’s a cop at the east precinct there. So if you get pulled over by officer Travis Jordan, hopefully I’m a get out of jail free card.
Well, I have some rapid fire questions wrap up. Favorite place to travel?
[00:26:54] Catie Griggs: Anywhere with water.
[00:26:55] AJ Maestas: Anywhere with water. Have you found a water place in the Pacific Northwest yet? [00:27:00]
[00:27:00] Catie Griggs: Well, thankfully I am looking at the Puget Sound outside of my office window right now as we’re speaking.
And we’re right near Lake Washington, our home, but we’ve done a lot of hiking out with the kids up in the mountains as well. We’ve got to check out several of the mountain lakes. So it’s beautiful out here.
[00:27:13] AJ Maestas: Yeah, it is when it is not raining, it is unmatched. I grew up in Alaska and when I came down for college, I thought, what a trick they’ve been telling us how beautiful Alaska is when tourists come, because it’s this it’s just as beautiful and 50 degrees warmer.
What are your top passions and hobbies?
[00:27:28] Catie Griggs: Right now I have two little kids. I have a three year old and a six year old. So I think that they basically occupy all of my spare time for passions and hobbies. They are my passions and hobbies right now. But beyond that, anything I can do out on the water, probably not a surprise based on what I just said, and food. I like food. I like to cook.
[00:27:48] AJ Maestas: Congratulations by the way on the kids. And also just to be on this career trajectory at your age is a pretty uncommon thing. You know, a lot of the research about women in the workforce and the underrepresentation [00:28:00] of women in sports, you know, an excuse, maybe it’s true. I don’t know exactly, but you know, they sort of cite those early motherhood years, right?
As a serious hurdle and hiccup, if you’re willing to share how you pulled that off, I think a lot of people would love to hear.
[00:28:13] Catie Griggs: I wish I could tell you that I’m successfully pulling it off. Look, it’s a lot of work. I think, you know, I have an incredible supportive husband. He works as well. I have an amazing au pair, we need help.
I know that I need help. I think it’s important to acknowledge and admit that we have help. And it’s something that helped make our work life work. With that being said, it’s also about figuring out where are those places where I can integrate my family into what I do. I have the privilege of having a pretty fun job and access to a lot of pretty cool experiences.
So my family often is out here at the ballpark with me it, but it’s also about setting boundaries and setting lines. My son’s gonna start his first day of first grade in a couple of weeks. I will be there. I will not be at work. I will be there that morning. So understanding what are those things where you’re willing to compromise?
[00:29:00] What are the things that you aren’t and living with the consequences. I think again, I don’t know that I can tell you I’ve been overtly successful, but that’s sort of been my key guidelines to, as I try to figure this out.
[00:29:11] AJ Maestas: Well, that’s not easy. I’m glad you’re gonna be there for ’em. It also sets a tone for the organization.
I mean, 81 events a year to bring your family to sounds nice, but that’s 81 nights a year you gotta work and
[00:29:21] Catie Griggs: They’re mostly sleeping for our night games, to be honest. So, weekend day games are our sweet spot.
[00:29:27] AJ Maestas: At three and six, I would hope so, but I mean, it’s just, it’s a taxing thing. I, I remember Ingrid one time having to like go to Tacoma and come back as, you know, that’s like, it could easily an hour plus drive.
Right? Sure. It’s just not a realistic thing to do in the world of baseball. Last question, book recommendation. Do you have a favorite book you would share with our audience?
[00:29:46] Catie Griggs: I love to read. I think one of the more, thought stimulating, fictional books I’ve read lately. That was The Midnight Library, which I really, it was well written. I really enjoyed it. And then had some interesting concepts that make you think. [00:30:00] So that’d be one that I’d check out.
[00:30:01] AJ Maestas: What, what is that about? I’m not familiar.
[00:30:03] Catie Griggs: It’s basically about opportunities to relive various parts of your life and what comes if you make different decisions. So it’s always sort of dives into the, if only I, or what if side of life, and it’s interesting to see different ways in which that could potentially play out. I don’t wanna give too much away.
[00:30:24] AJ Maestas: Do you believe in free will?
[00:30:25] Catie Griggs: I do believe in free will, yeah.
[00:30:28] AJ Maestas: Okay. That would be a book that would test that. Right.
[00:30:32] Catie Griggs: just thought provoking, thought provoking.
[00:30:34] AJ Maestas: Well, this is a quick and yet thought provoking conversation. It’s really a, a pleasure to chat with you in this way. I’m really proud and happy for you to be able to sit in the seat. It’s a pretty meaningful thing for baseball, and I think it’s a meaningful thing for the city and it looks like the Mariners might actually be there.
Let’s not count our chickens. Let’s touch wood here because that is, that comment has been made so many times don’t count on me as the jinx, if it doesn’t come through, but [00:31:00] a little winning cures a lot of pain and can erase a lot of history. And I really do hope you get there and are ready for it. Are ready to receive it when it happens.
So thank you again. If anybody listening has any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us. My email is AJ@NVGT.com. You can also connect with us on my personal LinkedIn page or the Navigate page. But again, this is AJ Maestas with Navigate joined by Catie Griggs. Thank you for joining us on Navigating Sports Business.
[00:31:25] Catie Griggs: Thanks for having me.